WASHINGTON – When Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, asked two expert witnesses on Wednesday whether they expect China to increase its meddling in the 2024 U.S. elections, “Yes” and “Absolutely yes” were their answers.

“The Chinese Communist Party’s activities to influence U.S. media are likely to increase in the coming years, including in the form of social media and campaigns surrounding the 2024 elections,” said Sarah Cook, a senior advisor of the Washington-based Freedom House think tank, told the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

Investigations showed that in 2016 and 2020, Russia meddled in U.S. elections, trying to help Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden. As the 2024 elections approach, multiple U.S. organizations including the Council on Foreign Affairs and the Center for Responsive Politics caution that China might be the next foreign power to influence American elections.

Microsoft Threat Analysis Center warned on Sep. 7 that China has developed improved AI technology that it could use to meddle in the 2024 elections by mimicking U.S. voters and stirring up controversies. Microsoft said, “We have observed China-affiliated actors leveraging AI-generated visual media in a broad campaign that largely focuses on politically divisive topics, such as gun violence, and denigrating U.S. political figures and symbols.”

Alan Kohler, a former assistant director of the FBI’s Counterintelligence Division, told Medill News Service that he worried that China might manipulate the news people receive through news media. “That is not giving Americans the freedom of thought, or anybody around the world freedom of thought, and it’s unfair,” he said.

One area where China would likely try to influence U.S. public opinion concerns the future of Taiwan. China’s threats to Taiwan have been growing. Over the past week, the Chinese military sent 110 aircraft and 38 vessels around the Taiwan Strait, according to Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense.

“Everybody worries about Taiwan and rightfully so,” said Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., the vice chairman of the committee. Rubio said that among other things, China’s influence operation aims to undermine support for Taiwan in America.

“When the day comes that there is a Taiwan conflict, the first thing some people are going to ask is, ‘Why should Americans die defending some small island halfway around the world just off the coast of China?’” Rubio said.